Obit­u­ary

Dr Alastair MacFadyen Scot­tish coun­try dance am­bas­sador

The Oban Times - - Births, Marriages & Deaths -

AR­GYLL res­i­dent, Dr Alastair MacFadyen, who died, aged 79, at the end of July, was one of the most in­flu­en­tial and most re­spected per­son­al­i­ties in the in­ter­na­tional world of Scot­tish coun­try danc­ing. Born in Carlisle, his fam­ily on his fa­ther’s side hailed from Strath­lach­lan on Loch Fy­ne­side.

Alastair re­called his child­hood in­tro­duc­tion to Scot­tish coun­try danc­ing, when his pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther and Aunt Ina were vis­it­ing in Carlisle. While Ina set­tled at the pi­ano, Alastair’s grand­fa­ther be­gan strik­ing his stick on the floor, in­struct­ing: ‘And step, 2, 3…and step, 2, 3,’ the boy’s first les­son in the tim­ing of the pas de basque, the step fun­da­men­tal to Scot­tish coun­try danc­ing.

Alastair was a grad­u­ate of Liver­pool Univer­sity, and Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy through his re­searches in Span­ish ar­chives.

He was ap­pointed a lec­turer in history at Jor­dan­hill Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion, Glas­gow, in 1966. Miss Dorothy Pater­son, a for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tor at the col­lege and long-time friend who re­sides in In­ver­aray, tes­ti­fies to the pop­u­lar­ity of Alastair among staff and stu­dents.

She re­calls that when he took a Jor­dan­hill class to Rus­sia: ‘Alastair’s lug­gage con­tained ny­lon tights and soap as barter items, as well as half a dozen hard-boiled eggs in case he didn’t take to Soviet fare.’

Alastair held ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant of­fice in the Royal Scot­tish Coun­try Dance So­ci­ety (RSCDS).

He was chair­man of the Glas­gow Branch; elected to the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil in 1975; ap­pointed First Honorary Ar­chiv­ist in 1978; chair­man of the RSCDS from 1985 to 1988; Di­rec­tor of the St An­drews Sum­mer School from 1994 to 1998; and made Honorary Pres­i­dent of the RSCDS in 2007.

That year he was in­vited to a royal re­cep­tion at Holy­rood as one who had made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to Scot­tish life and cul­ture. In 2013, ill health forced him to re­tire as Honorary Pres­i­dent.

In Septem­ber 2013, Alastair en­dured a ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence when his car plunged 30 feet down a steep ravine in wild coun­try­side near Glen­bran­ter in Ar­gyll on his way back from a shop­ping trip. The ve­hi­cle landed on its side, half-sub­merged in the river and in­vis­i­ble from the road.

He re­called: ‘It was about 4 p.m. when I went off the road. I tried shout­ing for help, but it didn’t work.

‘The food I had just bought was in the boot along with my mo­bile phone. I couldn’t get to them. I was able to dip a hand­ker­chief into rain­drops on the out­side of the ve­hi­cle to moisten my lips.

‘Ev­ery evening as it got dark I made sure I was in a po­si­tion well clear of the wa­ter just in case. But then the river rose a bit so that was wor­ry­ing.’

He lay in the car for over three days un­til res­cued by a lo­cal man out pick­ing mush­rooms.

As am­bas­sador and teacher to the world­wide fam­ily of ded­i­cated dancers in coun­tries in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Canada and Amer­ica, Alastair rep­re­sented the RSCDS with dig­nity, wis­dom and wit.

But much as he en­joyed his trav­els and re­unions with old friends, he loved the com­fort and soli­tude of the house of his fore­bears on Loch Fy­ne­side, where he cul­ti­vated a fra­grant and colour­ful gar­den.

To be served his home pro­duce, along with danc­ing rem­i­nis­cences, was a feast.

A devo­tee of Scot­tish mu­sic and fre­quent broad­caster on Scot­tish coun­try dance, nev­er­the­less he was in­ter­ested in, and sup­port­ive of other forms of dance.

He be­came a trustee of the Rus­sian Bal­let So­ci­ety in 1986, and was a founder mem­ber of the Scot­tish Tra­di­tions of Dance Trust. An ad­mirer of tra­di­tional skills, he was ac­tive in the Stra­chur Smiddy Mu­seum.

The num­ber of dancers in the pews at Strath­lach­lan Church who had trav­elled dis­tances to at­tend Alastair’s fu­neral, tes­ti­fied to the es­teem and af­fec­tion in which he was held. It seemed fit­ting that his in­ter­ment in the an­ces­tral coun­try­side he loved so much was tak­ing place as the first week of the RSCDS’s Sum­mer School at St An­drews, another great love, was un­der­way.

Those of us priv­i­leged to know Alastair as a friend and fel­low dancer en­hanc­ing a set in the Younger Hall at St An­drews, among dancers from many lands, will miss his buoy­ant pres­ence.

A bach­e­lor, Alastair is sur­vived by his neph­ews, Alas­dair, and Dun­can (who re­sides in Dunoon), and his niece, Morag.

Dr Lorn Macin­tyre

HIGHLY RE­SPECTED: Dr Alis­tair MacFadyen held ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant of­fice in the Royal Scot­tish Coun­try Dance

So­ci­ety (RSCDS)

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